Thursday, September 14, 2006

Natural Law, Rationalism, and Benedict XVI

Believe it or not, the Pope was discussing exactly what we were discussing at the Drinking Right forum the other evening. (See the comments section.) Here's HIS take:

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. [This last directly addressing Cantankerous' friend and my interlocutor, who sits at the right hand of a Blogger deity.]

Here's a line familiar to Cantankerous:

...For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss".

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.

For even more on the topic, see Elizabeth Powers' commentary on the Heather MacDonald/Michael Novak discussion. MacDonald's is a "secular" morality argument similar to what Cantankerous' pal offers, and has been widely disseminated.

Most likely there will be more discussion, now that GWB has brought up the "Third Awakening."

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